Fernando Torres has now scored 20 goals for Chelsea this season, a goal tally that betters the likes of Wayne Rooney (16), Carlos Tevez (16), Olivier Giroud (16), Sergio Aguero (14), Dimitar Berbatov (13) and Eden Dzeko (13), yet he is still widely regarded as a flop after the £50m Roman Abramovich forked out for him.
After just 1 goal in his first season and 11 in his second, Chelsea fans admirably stuck by the Premier League’s most expensive player and offered him their full support during this difficult period.
“I would like things to be much better but the support they give me every day is amazing,” Torres said a year ago. “I remember a game against Wolverhampton and I was on the bench, and they were still singing my name. I’ve been very lucky to live very good moments but that game, when I was in the middle of nothing and not playing, was maybe the best memory I have in all my career. At the beginning of the season, I went through a hard moment, I was not playing, things were wrong and I was eight games without playing – I had never been in this situation before. The only thing that gave me hope was the support of the people. That game against Wolverhampton showed me there are important things to fight for, the love of the fans, the support of the club. My team-mates as well but the fans are the ones who have always been there from the first day until now.”
When you consider how infrequently Torres was scoring for Chelsea it was remarkable to see how well supported he was by the fans. When you compare the treatment of Torres by Chelsea fans to the treatment of Dimitar Berbatov by United fans, when he was the Premier League’s top scorer in the season they won their record breaking 19th title, it’s all the more impressive. Of course, it was in their best interest to try and get the best out of their £50m man, but football fans are fickle and many turn on their players for much less. What seemed to be Torres’ saving grace was that he at least appeared to be trying, even if he wasn’t coming up with the goods.
However, in Torres’ third season in West London, with him still failing to recreate his form at Liverpool, now often not putting in the required effort, and becoming associated with the dismissal of the incredibly popular Roberto Di Matteo and the appointment of the incredibly unpopular Rafa Benitez, Chelsea fans have slowly turned on him.
At the beginning of the year, following yet another poor performance, Torres was booed and jeered by the fans at Stamford Bridge during their game against Swansea. It was his 100th appearance for the club, with a goal tally of just 26, and this latest lacklustre performance was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Chelsea fans.
Still, after racking up 20 goals this season, Torres is two goals away from matching his tally for 2009-2010 with Liverpool, having already bettered his 2008-2009 record, meaning this season could become his second highest goal-scoring season in the six years he’s played in England. So, just how deserving is he of criticism?
Aside from the slating he’s received for a lack of effort, the quality of the opposition he’s scored against takes something away from his goal tally. Just 7 of his 20 goals have come in the Premier League, against Reading (20th), Sunderland (17th), Aston Villa (16th), Norwich (14th), Newcastle (13th) and Arsenal (5th). Of those 7 goals, only those against Arsenal and Sunderland had a direct impact on the final result.
The remaining 13 goals came in Cup competitions. In the League Cup he scored the fifth in a 6-0 win over Wolves (20th in the Championship) and the fifth in a 5-1 win over Leeds (17th in the Championship). In the FA Cup he scored a late equaliser against Brentford (3rd in League 1) to force a replay and again in their 2-0 win over Middlesbrough (9th in the Championship). In the Champions League he scored twice in the 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland (2nd in the Danish League). In the Europa League he scored in the third in a 3-1 win over Steaua București (1st in the Romanian League), but more importantly, scored twice in their 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan (5th in the Russian League) and again in their 3-2 defeat against the same club in the second leg, which ensured they progressed to the semi-final on goal difference. He also scored in the 3-1 win over Monterrey (7th in the Mexican League) in the FIFA World Club Cup semi-final. This would suggest that Arsenal, who are currently 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United, are the best side he’s scored against this season, which isn’t anything to write home about.
When you compare Torres to strikers at other clubs (and Demba Ba since he joined Chelsea), a clearer picture of his flaws begins to develop.
Torres scores, on average, every 5+ hours that he’s on the pitch, which is a poor record compared to others, with the likes of Dzeko, Suarez, Van Persie and Rooney scoring every 2+ hours. Another huge flaw is his clear cut chance conversion, with him scoring just a quarter of the chances that are put on a plate for him, which is dwarfed by the likes of Suarez, Rooney, Tevez and Dzeko who score half of their chances. Torres’ passing isn’t dreadful, but it is still weaker than most other top club strikers.
Where Torres shines is his ability to get his efforts on target, with a shooting accuracy of 57%, but he isn’t deadly enough in front of goal so isn’t converting these chances.
In conclusion, whilst any season a striker scores 20+ goals can’t be regarded as a poor one, the quality of the opposition and the lacking effort in most of his appearances means it’s probably too little too late for the Spaniard. With Radamel Falcao managing 28 goals in 33 appearances this season and 36 goals in 50 appearances the season before, you can understand why Chelsea would be keen on shipping Torres back to his former club and luring the Colombian in his place. They may be cutting their losses and the £50m spent on Torres may ensure that he goes down as one of the Premier League’s biggest ever flops, but Chelsea fans can take some comfort in the fact that at least they didn’t spend £35m on Andy Carroll…